Thursday, April 11, 2019
Last Doolittle Raider Richard E, Cole: 2,500 Miles and 13 Hours
He was born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Marion L. Steele High School and then attended Ohio University for two years. Cole enlisted as an aviation cadet on November 22, 1940, at Lubbock, Texas and was commissioned a second lieutenant in July 1941 and rated as a pilot.
He was assigned to be co-pilot on the first plane, a B-25 medium bomber, to leave the USS Hornet's deck, piloted by the raid's leader, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.
On April 18, 1942, the planes took off and reached their target, Tokyo, Japan, and dropped their bombs. Then they headed for a Chinese airfield but ran out of fuel and bailed out after flying 2,500 miles and 13 hours. The crew was able to link up and were helped through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas and missionary John Birch. (The John Birch Society was named after him in case you're wondering.)
Cole was the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raid. Staff Sergeant David Thatcher, gunner on Aircraft No. 7, died on June 23, 2016, at the age of 94. Cole was the only member to live to be older than Jimmy Doolittle, who died in 1993 at the age of 96.
On September 19, 2016, the Northrup Grumman B-21 was formally renamed "Raider" in honor of the Doolittle Raiders. As the last surviving member of the group, Cole was present at the naming ceremony.
Richard Cole died in San Antonio, Texas, on April 9, 2019, at the age of 103. He will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, following services at Joint Base San Antonio.
The Greatest of the Greatest.